The Dragon at the NSG high table

India’s bid for NSG membership will continue to see hurdles, with China being vocal in its opposition

At the Carnegie Endowment International Nuclear Policy Conference in 2015, a polling question asked to the hall full of global diplomats and foreign policy experts was: “Is there a likelihood of more than 50% that by March 24, 2017, India will become a participant in the Nuclear Suppliers Group?” Only one panellist and 37% of the audience responded positively. Three panellists and 67% of the audience were naysayers, and they were proved right. A similar question asked to some 800 delegates recently at a subsequent chapter of the Carnegie conference in Washington DC gave way to a fragmented response. An average of 25% were hopeful of a 50% chance of New Delhi making it through by 2019. As India continues to push for a seat at the nuclear high table, it seems an uphill task, and the view from the Hill isn’t rosy either. The former UN High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, Angela Kane, believes that India stands a good 55% chance to make it but is opposed to India’s push. “I do not believe India should be a member of NSG because of criterion. In a meeting that I attended, the Chinese representative, a high-ranking ambassador, was very vocal, opposing the U.S. position on this.” Speculation is rife if over the next two years, either India or India and Pakistan or none could make it through the NSG. In the NSG plenary session in Seoul in June 2016, New Delhi blamed Beijing for the “Consensus Minus One” hurdle to its bid even though close to a dozen countries including Mexico, Brazil, Norway, Ireland expressed serious reservations over India not being signatory to the Non Proliferation Treaty. It is now learnt from U.S. diplomatic sources that calls were generated from the White House as well as the State Department to some naysayers including New Zealand and Italy. Italy had wanted a way out on the diplomatic tangle around its two marines charged with the murder of Indian fishermen. They had sought trial in a third country as a possible option. New Delhi dismissed the proposals and Italy stuck to its opposition in the closed-door sessions. Since the Seoul summit, a committee under Rafael Mariano Grossi, Ambassador of the Argentine Republic and Permanent Representative to International Organizations in Vienna and Chair of the Nuclear Suppliers Group, was tasked with backdoor consultations for expansion of the elite club. According to him, “several formulations are on the table to deal with the central issue of relationship with the NPT”. “The jury is still out and we need to wait a little bit,” he says. The India-China-U.S. tango Indian and Chinese interlocutors too have held rounds of discussions to resolve mutual issues. But with a public opposition unlike a quiet one in 2008, Beijing looks less relenting. Laura Kennedy, former U.S. Ambassador and Board Member at the World Affairs Council, says, “Even if India were to allow Pakistan to come in, some have suggested China might still be averse because they see this as elevating India to almost ranks of the P5 or Security Council membership.” A view from Capitol Hill is that China is positioned as a focal point of resistance for those who were persuaded or coerced earlier in 2008 by the Bush regime but remain resentful of a country-specific waiver for India. But if China were to shed its resistance, it would be easier to achieve consensus. Meanwhile, India would have to find ways to woo the dragon. With the Trump administration busy with domestic agendas ranging from health care to the economy and also North Korea, Iran and the Islamic State being the focus areas overseas, the U.S.-China dialogue will hardly hinge on Beijing’s position on the NSG tangle for now. The U.S. continues to advocate support for India’s membership. Dr. Christopher Ford, U.S. President Donald Trump’s adviser at the National Security Council, says that while the NSG stand-of requires a change in tactics or circumstances for resolution, there have been no indications of change in the U.S. administration’s approach to India’s membership so far. With the NSG plenary set to meet again in Bjern in June this year, despite technical preparations, a resolution will be difficult to reach without political will. A top diplomat privy to the negotiations stressed that a green light to India’s entry is a political decision that China will have to make. China may not shy away from advocating keeping out all-weather friend Pakistan in order to keep India out. Meanwhile, American diplomats advise patience as India already has the functionality it needed with the 2008 waiver for nuclear commerce. A seat at the high table will be required to influence decisions and nuclear export in future. So, any proposal to woo baiters would have to be window dressed to look considerate of future bids from other non-NPT players including Israel, instead of appearing to be tailor-made only for India. For now, NSG will be an uphill task with China unwilling to play nice, and contentious issues of the H-1B visa, intellectual property rights and trade dominating the India-U.S. agenda when Prime Minister Narendra Modi goes to Capitol Hill.

Back to square one: Egypt’s restive politics

Six years after Tahrir, Hosni Mubarak is released, highlighting Egypt’s restive politics

For most of those who hit Cairo’s Tahrir Square in 2011 demanding democracy and a freer society, President Hosni Mubarak was a symbol of repression. After his ouster, the dictator was tried for corruption and causing the death of hundreds of protesters. Still, his release last week, after six years of detention at Cairo’s military hospital, was received by Egyptians as just a routine development. There were no major protests against his release, nor were there any rallies in support — an indication of what Egypt’s state and society have become six years after the Arab Spring. The release was long expected. Most of his associates and family members, who also faced serious charges, were already released. His sons, Alaa and Gamal, accused of embezzlement of public funds, were released in October 2015. Corruption charges against Mr. Mubarak were overturned in January 2015. Earlier this month, he was acquitted by Egypt’s highest appeals court of conspiring to kill protesters, paving the way for his release. It may appear ironic that Mr. Mubarak, who ruled the country with an iron fist for almost 30 years and was toppled by public protests in which hundreds were killed, is now a free man, while Mohamed Morsi, Egypt’s first democratically elected President, is in prison. But this irony also symbolises Egypt’s complex contemporary politics. Though the government of Abdel Fattah al-Sisi claims the legacy of the 2011 revolution, it took a lenient view of Mubarak-era crimes while cracking down on Mr. Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood. It is difficult to gauge the political mood in Egypt. Despite large-scale concentration of power in the hands of the military, the Sisi regime doesn’t face any existential threats. For ordinary Egyptians, who went through the instability and chaos of the post-Mubarak months and the threats of Islamisation and economic miseries during the Muslim Brotherhood rule, General Sisi at least provided stability and order. The belief is that compared to other countries that were hit by popular protests in 2011 such as Libya, Yemen and Syria, Egypt is doing better, thanks to the army’s intervention. Tunisia is the only country that internally transformed itself into a democracy after protests. Gen. Sisi projects himself as a guarantor of order and enjoys support among the minorities and secular sections. But the question is if the status quo is sustainable. Order was restored at a brutal cost. Hundreds were killed when security personnel forcibly removed Islamist protesters from Cairo. There is no substantive political opposition. Personal freedoms are being curbed again, while media groups and journalists are targeted. In effect, what hundreds of protesters at Tahrir Square risked their lives for was never achieved. Gen. Sisi has taken the country back to square one.

1) Sordid

Meaning: Dirty and unpleasant.

Example: There are lots of really sordid apartments in the city’s poorer areas.

Meaning: Morally wrong and shocking.

Example: He told me he’d had an affair but he spared me the sordid details.

Synonyms: Shameful, Disreputable

Antonyms: Clean, Decent

2) Astute

Meaning: Able to understand a situation quickly and see how to take advantage of it.

Example: An astute observer of human behaviour.

Synonyms: Bright, Intelligent

Antonyms: Foolish, Ignorant

3) Amalgam

Meaning: A mixture of mercury and another metal, especially one used by dentists to repair teeth.

Example: An amalgam filling.

Meaning: A combination of parts that create a complete whole.

Example: Nearly every new parent feels an amalgam of joy and terror.

Synonyms: Mishmash, Composite

Antonyms: Division, Separation

4) Monologue

Meaning: A short play for one actor.

Example: Alan Bennett wrote a series of monologues called “Talking Heads”.

Meaning: A long speech by one person.

Example: He subjected me to a monologue on his last stay in hospital.

Synonyms: Discourse, Speech

Antonyms: Silence, Quiet

5) Innate

Meaning: An innate quality or ability is one that you were born with, not one you have learned.

Example: Cyril’s most impressive quality was his innate goodness.

Synonyms: Intrinsic, Essential

Antonyms: Learn, Incidental

6) Palliative

Meaning: Something that makes a problem seem less serious but does not solve the problem or make it disappear.

Example: We want long-term solutions, not short-term palliatives.

Synonyms: Ameliorate, Sedative

Antonyms: Aggravation, Annoyance

7) Interminable

Meaning: Continuing for too long and therefore boring or annoying.

Example: They talked interminably.

Synonyms: Boundless, Continuous

Antonyms: Brief, Ceasing

8) Gauche

Meaning: Awkward and uncomfortable with other people, especially because young and without experience.

Example: She had grown from a gauche teenager to a self-assured young woman.

Synonyms: Awkward, Ungraceful and Inept

Antonyms: Elegant, Mannerly

9) Pertinent

Meaning: Relating directly to the subject being considered.

Example: She asked me a lot of very pertinent questions.

Synonyms: Relevant, Appropriate

Antonyms: Improper, Irrelevant

10) Acrimony

Meaning: Full of anger, arguments, and bad feeling.

Example: Their marriage ended eight years ago in an acrimonious divorce.

Synonyms: Belligerent, Rancour

Antonyms: Benevolent, Kindness

11) Fete

Meaning: A public event, often held outside, where you can take part in competitions and buy small things and food, often organized to collect     money for a particular purpose.

Example: They’re holding the village fete on the green.

Meaning: To praise or welcome someone publicly because of their achievements.

Example: She was feted by audiences both in her own country and     abroad.

Synonyms: Praising, Applauding

Antonyms: Chasten, Foul

12) Renegades

Meaning: A person who has changed their feelings of support and duty from one political, religious, national, etc. Group to a new one.

Example: A band of renegades had captured the prince and were holding him to ransom.

Synonyms: Radical, Runaway

Antonyms: Obedient, Passive

13) Purge

Meaning: The act of getting rid of people from an organization because you do not agree with them.

Example: Between 1934 and 1938, Stalin mounted a massive purge of the communist party, the government and the armed forces in the Soviet Union.

Meaning: To make someone or something free of something evil or harmful.

Example: The new state governor has promised to purge the police force     of corruption.

Synonyms: Liquidation, Removal

Antonyms: Dirtying, maintenance

14) Riposte

Meaning: A quick and clever remark, often made in answer to a criticism.

Example: She made a sharp riposte.

Synonyms: Retort, Thrust

Antonyms: Question, Request

15) Partisan

Meaning: Strongly supporting a person, principle, or political party, often without considering or judging the matter very carefully:

Example: The audience was very partisan, and refused to listen to her     speech.

Synonyms: Partial, Blind

Antonyms: Unbiased, Fair

16) Prelude

Meaning: Something that comes before a more important event or action that introduces or prepares for it.

Example: The changes are seen as a prelude to wide-ranging reforms.

Synonyms: proem, prologue

Antonyms: Sequel, Verdict

17) Premonition

Meaning: A feeling that something, especially something unpleasant, is going to happen.

Example: She had a sudden premonition of what the future might bring.

Synonyms: Presage, Prediction

Antonyms: Intellect, Trust

18) Preponderance

Meaning: The largest part or greatest amount.

Example: The preponderance of evidence suggests that he’s guilty.

Synonyms: Prevalence, Sway

Antonyms: flaw, inferiority

19) Onus

Meaning: The responsibility or duty to do something.

Example: We are trying to shift the onus for passenger safety onto the government.

Synonyms: Stigma, Blot

Antonyms: Forfeit, Impunity

20) Jingoism

Meaning: The extreme belief that your own country is always best, often shown in enthusiastic support for a war against another country.

Example: Patriotism can turn into jingoism and intolerance very quickly.

Synonyms: Chauvinism, Xenophobia

Antonyms: Betrayal, Rebellion


Acumen: The ability to make good judgements and take quick decisions.

Acuity: Sharpness or keenness of thought, vision, or hearing.


Attenuate: Reduce the force, effect, or value of.

Extenuate: To cause a wrong act to be judged less seriously by giving reason for it.


Auger: A tool resembling a large corkscrew, for boring holes in wood.

Augur: Portend a good or bad outcome.


Errand: A short journey either to take a message or to take or collect something

Arrant: Complete, Utter.


Ambiguous: Open to more than one interpretation; Not having one obvious meaning.

Ambivalent: Having mixed feelings or contradictory ideas about something or someone.

26) The Hague Rules: A set of international rules relating to the insurance of goods transported by ship.

27) Press baron: A person who owns several newspapers and sometimes controls what they publish.

28) Lobby correspondent: A reporter who spends a lot of time in the British parliament trying to discover news about recent and future political events.

29) Silly season: The time of year, usually in the summer, when newspapers are full of stories that are not important because there is no important, especially political, news.

30) Sailing boat: A small boat with sails.